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Aztec police shut down unruly commission meeting

From left, Aztec City Attorney Nicci Unsicker, Commissioner Mark Lewis and Commissioner Austin Randall on Tuesday during a City Commission meeting. (Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

From left, Aztec City Attorney Nicci Unsicker, Commissioner Mark Lewis and Commissioner Austin Randall on Tuesday during a City Commission meeting. (Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

AZTEC – Aztec police officers ended the Aztec City Commission meeting Tuesday night and ordered the room cleared as they ushered commissioners into a side room after some audience members became unruly, and began hurling insults and demanding a recall election.

Aztec Police Captain Troy Morris announced that the meeting was over and asked the crowd of more than 100 people to leave.

Many audience members became upset and angry when the City Commission voted 3-2 against a Second Amendment Preservation City resolution. The resolution would have forbidden the use of city resources to enforce certain gun-related laws that many residents say violate their constitutional rights.

Commissioner Mark Lewis cast the tie-breaking vote. When reached by phone, he said he was concerned about the city being exposed to liability, including lawsuits, if it passed a Second Amendment Preservation City resolution.

An amended resolution had been drafted prior to the meeting and was also presented. The amended resolution expressed support for the Second Amendment and reaffirmed the commissioners’ oath of office to uphold the constitutions of the United States and New Mexico. However, it did not prohibit the use of city resources to uphold state gun laws.

Many audience members vocally expressed opposition to the amended resolution and said the city should take the chance of being sued.

Commissioner Sherri Sipe said she was about to make a motion to adopt the amended resolution when police shut down the meeting. She had voted in favor of the Second Amendment Preservation City resolution, but had reservations about it.

When reached by phone, Sipe said she had met with City Attorney Nicci Unsicker the day before and Unsicker expressed concern about the resolution creating a liability for the city. Sipe said that led to the amended resolution being drafted.

Sipe said she was hoping the residents would be satisfied with a resolution expressing support for the right to bear arms, but she realized they wanted more.

Commissioner Austin Randall made the motion to adopt the Second Amendment Preservation City resolution. Randall and Sipe voted in favor of it, while Lewis, Commissioner Rosalyn Fry and Mayor Victor Snover voted against it.

Prior to the vote, the commission listened to public comments on both sides of the issue for about an hour.

Mary LaRue Hunter read from the New Mexico Constitution prior to making a statement. “Our rights as American citizens are not given to us by the government,” she said. “They’re given to us by God.”

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence co-president Miranda Viscoli attended the meeting and warned commissioners the initial resolution could get the city sued.

“Bullying is not democracy and last night was a tragic example of what happens when armed bullies at a city commission meeting overturn the Democratic process that we hold so dear,” Viscoli told The Daily Times.

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